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Top Customer Reviews
The first part of the book deals with his diplomatic career in the USSR. Maclean quickly tires of the endless cycle of diplomatic receptions and the restrictions upon travel, and decides to see more of the USSR, particularly the Central Asian republics that were still being assimilated into the Union. He sets off on a series of enlightening journeys (with little or no official approval!) that take him far from Moscow to the legendary cities of Samarkand and Bokhara. This is fine travel writing indeed, Maclean giving a very powerful sense of what the Stalinist era was like and also of the exoticism of Central Asia. There are also powerful descriptions of the Stalist purges of 1938 and the accompanying "show trials".
The second part of the book covers Maclean's exploits with the SAS in the North African deserts and the Middle East. Resigning from his diplomatic post to join the Army (using the convenient excuse of becoming an MP!) Maclean serves as a private in a Scottish regiment for some time before being commmissioned and sent to the Middle East. Here he falls in with David Stirling and becomes an early member of the SAS - his stories of their training, tactics and raids are powerful indeed, matched by evocative descriptions of the African landscapes. Maclean moves on to form SAS units in the Middle East, but before long is summoned to go behind enemy lines as Churchill's military representative to Tito's Yugoslav partisans.
The final third of the book mixes military action and politics, with Maclean organising the support for the Partisans and representing them to the Allies.Read more ›
Maclean was stationed in Moscow at a time when the embassy staff there was still quite small. Black tie dinners and frequent hob-nobbing with diplomats from other legations. As someone who has been to Russia ten times in the last fifteen years, the accuracy of his observations astounded me. It may read as exaggeration, but his tales of drunken train journeys, the smell of BO and cabbage in the tube; the depressingly morose looks of Russians in the street conflicting strongly with their demeanour when behind closed doors; the stifling influence of the security forces and Soviet bureaucracy; all these still ring true today. Most of the space devoted to the time he spent in the Soviet Union does not deal, however, with Moscow (with the notable exception of the last and biggest show trial of the Stalin era), but those regions further south. Whether he went there as a spy or whether we are to believe him when he says that he went there as a tourist, out of plain curiosity, Fitzroy was one of the first Europeans to venture so far south in one hundred years. He captures the sights, sounds and smells of Kazakhstan, Uzbekhistan and Afghanistan amazingly well. How easy to recognize Boukhara and Samarkand, Almaty and the Kush in his wonderfully descriptive writing.Read more ›
First published in 1949, this autobiography is broken into 3 parts each of which would qualify in its own right as worthy of a book. Part One tells of the author’s years in the Soviet Union from 1937 to 1939. Having spent a couple of years as a diplomat at the Paris Embassy, a plumb posting, MacLean asked to go to the USSR, as no-one else wanted to go this was an easy assignment to get! Arriving in Moscow at the height of Stalin’s purges (and witness to one of the most famous trial – that of Bukharin and co – the story of which is told here with great insight) the young polyglot was determined to see as much of the country as possible and to get away from the cloying paranoia of Moscow where for a Soviet National to be seen talking, even in passing, to a foreigner could lead to torture, imprisonment or even death.
MacLean’s travel hobby was a pastime highly discouraged by the Soviet Government.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What a lovely story teller.....although I am a bit of a World War II fan, I found this whole book fascinating.... Read morePublished 2 days ago by chc
Really well written personal perspective of major historical events, not just WW2.Published 2 months ago by R Roberts
Anyone thinking of a career in diplomacy should read this. Maclean is an old school British adventurer and government sanctioned travelling rogue. Top read.Published 5 months ago by E.Greaves
Brilliantly written, and one of the most amazing books I have ever read. From devastating revelations inside Stalin's Russia to Maclean's part in the early days of the SAS, every... Read morePublished 6 months ago by bookworm
The book was really interesting.The quality if the print was awful.Photocopied pages and photos.Letters missing on edge and top of pages.Makes it somehow hard to read.Published 9 months ago by Alistair Babbington
Super premise destroyed by incredibly dull commentary, perhaps attributable to the British stiff upper lip. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Where Is Belgium?